I am going to college.
This statement, chanted by over 200 Huffman High School seniors was a running theme during a breakfast celebration hosted by Alabama Possible on April 14.
The free Taco Bell ® Breakfast was Huffman’s reward for completing more Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms than A.H. Parker, Carver, P.D. Jackson-Olin, Wenonah and Woodlawn High Schools.
For many students, completing a FAFSA is the first step in ensuring a college dream will become a reality. It is required for any student applying for the Pell Grant, federal loans and other work-study programs at Alabama’s two- and four-year, academic and technical schools.
The six Birmingham City Schools were challenged by Alabama Possible’s Cash for College campaign and Taco Bell to complete the most FAFSA forms during FAFSA February—a month-long national push to raise awareness of the FAFSA and to encourage more students to complete the form before the March 1 priority deadline. During the competition, 32% of all Huffman seniors completed a FAFSA, which was slightly more than the other participating schools.
While the entire senior class was invited to the Taco Bell ® breakfast, in order to receive a ticket, Huffman seniors had to sign the Taco Bell ® Foundation for Teens’ Graduate 4 Mas pledge to graduate from high school. During the celebration, the students enjoyed breakfast burritos and cinnabons, and heard from Lawson State Community College’s Financial Aid Director, Cassandra Hollins, and recruiter, Cyrondys Jackson, about the importance of financial aid and the resources available on campus.
Huffman’s students cited the unwavering support from guidance counselor, Flora Giles; senior teachers, Nicole Dear and Varonica Stewart; and Huffman’s Principal John Lyons, for helping them win the challenge.
Even though the challenge ended in March, Huffman’s senior class has continued to complete FAFSA forms. As of April 10, 2015, Huffman has over 100 FAFSA completions and counting. City-wide, with a few months left to complete a FAFSA to receive funding for fall enrollment, this year’s Birmingham City Schools’ senior class has already matched last year’s total.
Principal Lyons congratulated the senior class for not only winning the competition, but for making a plan for after they graduate from high school. He said, “You have completed that first step. Now you get to use that money at the school of your choice.”
One Huffman senior, Angelica Gant, knows once the breakfast burritos and cinnabons are gone, her journey is just beginning. Angelica, who will attend Berea College next fall, said college is not an obligation, but a great investment. She was grateful for learning about the FAFSA. She said, “Financial aid can really motivate you.”
Many thanks to Huffman High School, Tacala, and Taco Bell’s Foundation for Teens, for making the Taco Bell ® Breakfast challenge a success. Below are photos from the event.